Certificate, Certification, and Certified: Understanding the Three Cs of Paralegals

Law students in a meeting

Becoming a paralegal is a rewarding job, especially if you love to write and do research. This type of legal work can broaden your knowledge about different types of laws and the provisions surrounding it. It can also hone your administrative and secretarial skills.

Some people don’t dream of becoming one because they think they don’t have the guts to do so, while others say that they don’t have the time or money to obtain a full law degree. The Center For Legal Studies noted that this shouldn’t be the case. The good news is there are paralegal degrees online that can help any aspirant to achieve a career in law.

Whatever your reasons, you should first know about the differences of being a certified paralegal, being a paralegal with certification, and having a paralegal certificate. Here’s a quick look:

Certificate in Paralegal Studies

To become a paralegal, you need a certificate in paralegal studies. It implies that you have finished the required education successfully, which is between nine and 18 months. This means you have fulfilled the academic part of becoming a paralegal. Having a paralegal certificate, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a certified paralegal already.

Paralegal Certification

The paralegal profession in the U.S. is still unregulated. Due to this, educational organizations and private and national institutions are offering certification of diverse proficiency for paralegals.

If you want to get a certification or two, you have to take an exam and must have work experience. Organizations offering paralegal certifications include:

  • National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
  • National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
  • Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
  • American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)

Certified Paralegal

After taking and passing a certification from any of the organizations above, you are now a certified paralegal. Many schools, colleges, universities, and even paralegal online degrees offer certificates, but only the above-mentioned organizations can provide you with certifications. This might get confusing, but candidates for this must pass the Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant (CP/CLA) exam.

Before anything else, make sure to enroll in a school with an American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation. Many lawyers prefer paralegals who have studied in ABA-approved schools, so might as well enroll in one that will get you a job in the future.